Crossing the line: A battle report

Another week, another game of Force on Force. This time the scenario was designed by my opponent. The session was a close call that turned into a complete bloodbath for both sides, but in the end NATO, like last game, came out on top. I play the Warsaw Pact in this game, and my opponent (let’s give him the codename Swordsman) plays NATO. And once again I apologize for the overall bad pictures. I started out with a few shots using my camera, but it became a bit clunky to use during the game so I switched to my phone.

GDR Grenzers patrolling the Inner German Border. Just as, or more, concerned with keeping people from defecting than keeping spies out.


Tensions have been running high between the blocs during the last few weeks after the breakdown of the recent Helsinki accords. Both the warsaw pact and NATO have set their respective forces on alert and moved units closer to their respective side of the iron curtain.

In the German border hamlet of Verschiedendorf, border guards are nervously staring eachother down across the fence of the inner german border. The tension is punctured when radios crackle to life on both sides. The orders coming down the line are unambiguous. War has been declared. Secure the border crossing and await reinforcements in preparation for an offensive.

Force compositions and objectives

The combat zone.

The NVA have two groups of Grenzers deployed with the mechanised support of a BMP-2. The West German bundesgrenzschuts start the game without vehicle support. However, they are backed up by a team of US Army airborne rangers that have been posted as observers to the border crossing. All units in the game are troop quality 8, except the rangers who are TQ 10. Reserves will arrive at the start of turn 3. The final objective for both sides is to hold the border crossing at the end of the game.

The objective.

NVA force composition

  • 2 x Grenzer teams
  • 1 x BMP-2
  • 1 x T-72B
  • 1 x T-62A

NATO force composition

  • 1 x Bundesgrenzschuts team
  • 1 x US Army airborne ranger team
  • 2 x M60A1

Objectives: Whichever side has the largest, unpinned force in the hamlet at the end of turn 5 wins the game.


Deployment zones.
Initial force deployments.

NATO Turn 1

NATO won the initiative and start off the confrontation. The BGS team rushes across the field they deployed and take up position in at the border fence. We played the border as a passable light cover. They proceed to fire upon the Grenzers in the village intersection, inflicting heavy losses. The unit breaks and are forced to pull back. The second Grenzer team react by shooting back, inflicting no losses but pinning the unit.



The BGS team still manage to fire a shot with their RPG at the BMP-2 hidden in among the trees to the South of the village. It inflicts a mobility kill, limiting the vehicle to tactical speed for the rest of the game. It returns fire, cutting down two border guards with a hail of 30mm autocannon fire.

The BMP-2 surveils the farmland from its hiding spot.
The BGS and BMP-2 exchange fire.

At the other end of the village, the ranger team moves out of the forest, crosses the border and take up position behind a wall on the West side of the town. The first Grenzer team is now in a precarious position unless they can rally.


NVA Turn 1

Reeling from the hammer blow dealt by the Bundesgrenzschutz team (that was deployed in the open in the middle of a field, no less!), the NVA decides to shift its center of gravity. The BMP-2 advances North toward the BGS team. The idea is to combine fire with Grenzer team 2 to eliminate the BGS team, and then execute a pincer attack on the rangers. The combined fire manages to take down one more border guard, but the unit passes its morale check.


NATO Turn 2

The BGS team continue to be a force of nature. They start by taking out the BMP-2 with their armbrust, and then make a tactical advance into the village, keeping the houses between them and the Grenzers. The airborne rangers make a short tactical advance and take position in the courtyard behind the restaurant in the North West of the village.


NVA Turn 2

The second NVA turn is fairly uneventful. The broken Grenzer team fails to rally, and sit tight in their backyard in the Eastern part of the village. The other team makes a tactical retreat across the road to avoid being flanked. The plan is to hold out until the armour arrives in turn three and make a counter attack.



NATO Turn 3

Turn three starts with the grinding of tank treads as reinforcements reach the combat zone. Swordsman chose to split up his two M60s and deploy one to the North and the other to the South. Since I had effectively been driven out of the village, I decided to deploy both the T-62 and T-72 on the road entering the board to the South East. The idea was to consolidate and pick off the NATO armour before trying another pincer attack on the infantry in the objective zone.

NATO reinforcements enter from the West.
Warsaw pact reinforcements enter from the South East.

The NATO turn started with the BGS border guards making a close quarter assault on the survivors of Grenzer team 1. The backyard turned into a storm of assault rifle fire, but the Grenzers hold their outhouse. They inflict one casaulty with return fire while losing none, and pin the remaining two BGS border guards.

The M60 to the North move up toward the village in order to support the entrenched rangers. The M60 to the South move directly East to meet the enemy armour.


An M60 trundling through a German village during a REFORGER exercise.

NVA Turn 3

The NVA tanks move up to engage the lone M60 coming in from the East. An effective shot from the 125mm cannon turns the M60 into an expensive scarecrow on the wheat field.


NVA T-72s advancing across the farmlands.

Meanwhile, the Grenzer teams reposition themselves to engage the surviving BGS. After a furious crossfire, a lone BGS border guard is left standing. The poor chap breaks and is forced to pull pack to the northern outskirt of the village.

The Grenzers converge on the BGS and cut them down to one.
The lone survivor of the BGS team pulls back to the Northern exit of the village.

NATO Turn 4

The surviving M60 diverts from the village to engage the NVA armour. It manages to get a side shot on the T-72, but is in turn taken out by reaction fire from the T-62.


In the village, the surviving BGS trooper rallies and opens fire on the Grenzers, but they take no casaulties and take him down with return fire. That marked the end of the BGS team.

NVA Turn 4

The full strength Grenzer team cross the street to take up roughly the position they held at the beginning of the game in order to engage the rangers. The airborne rangers have been sitting comfortably in their backyard for pretty much the whole game, and I figured it was time to change that. After crossing the street they open fire, inflicting one casaulty. But as we learned in the last game, rangers are some tough bastards. Their return fire takes out half the Grenzers.


The T-62 starts executing a flanking move out of Carl Gustav range in the fields. The idea is to come at the rangers with the frontal armour in the last round, hopefully taking them out.


The other surviving Grenzers have started a flanking move North of the compound occupied by the Rangers, using the buildings to obscure their movement.

NATO Turn 5

The rangers start forcefully by gunning down the remaining Grenzers of team 2. After that, Swordsman chose to keep them entrenched. He (correctly) wagered that he already had the upper hand in the village and exposing them would be needlessly risky.


NVA Turn 5

Since one of the Grenzer teams was now eliminated, a lot was hinging on the T-62. The tank pivoted up and charged at the rangers across the farmland. But it lost the reaction test, so before it could bring the 125mm to bear, the rangers turned the thunder run into an anti-climax by one shotting the tank with the Carl Gustav.


What dim hope was still there now hinged on the last remaining Grenzers. They took up position across the court yard and started trading fire with the rangers. Both parties lost one soldiers each. The rangers were still numerically superior by one, and the Grenzers technically were not in the objective zone, so NATO could claim victory.


Final thoughts

As usual, it was a lot of fun to play even though I lost. The scenario was well balanced and had a nice premise I think. I feel I wasted the BMP-2 a bit early in the game, but otherwise I made an ok job. The end result was a pretty close call as you can see.

However, the game got me thinking about Force on Force a bit. I’ve mentioned before that I really like its system of having a universal 4+ mechanic but representing different troop qualities with different dice. However, I’m slowly starting to realise that there’s not a whole lot more I like about the system, even though I praised it earlier. It quickly becomes a mess keeping track of what unit is eligable to react to what, and how the current firepower of a squad is affected by the 5342 reactions it may or may not have engaged in thus far this turn.

I recently got a copy of the Bolt Action rules from a friend, and we might try those with some modifications for modern warfare next time. That or Rory Crabb’s Fireteam Modern I think.

Well, as always, I hope you enjoyed this write up. Thanks for taking the time.

West German Bundesgrenzschuts squad chilling out. Notice the FN FALs in the foreground. The BGS was restructured into an all volunteer civilian force separate from the military, thus turning it into a sort of paramilitary outfit. This organisational form made the GDR draw parallells between the BGS and the SS in their critique of West Germany.

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